Aloha! Ready to trade the Big Apple for fresh passionfruit, tropical adventures, and laidback island living? If you want to escape NYC (and the mainland in general), but still stay within the United States, moving from New York City to Honolulu is a dream come true. 

Whether you’re looking to explore the fantastic natural wonders, sunbathe on some of the best beaches in the world, boost your health, or find peace & unity through the Aloha Spirit, it’s easy to see why so many people fall in love with this magical place. Here’s your guide to what you need to know before booking moving services and relocating to the City of Honolulu.

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What to Know About Moving from NYC to Honolulu

Moving to Honolulu from NYC is a no-brainer for many people. But it does pay to know what you’re getting into when transitioning to island life on Hawaii’s capital and biggest city. 

Taxes

As a New Yorker, you’re most likely well-acquainted with some of the highest taxation in the nation. With a current total sales tax rate of 8.875% (4% state + 4.875% local) and a total top income tax rate of 12.7% (8.82% state + 3.88% local), NYC is an expensive place to live. In contrast, Honolulu has a sales tax rate of only 4.5% and an income tax rate of 8.3%. Compared to the Big Apple, the city on O’ahu doesn’t take such a large bite out of your earnings. 

Are you interested in homeownership? Honolulu currently has an average property tax rate of 0.288% (or $2,016 per year on an assessed home value of $700,000). So how about NYC? Big oof. The same home value of $700K costs a New Yorker 1.925% or $13,475 annually. 

It’s important to note there are two types of property ownership in Hawaii. Fee simple provides full ownership of the land and structures on the property. Leasehold allows the resident to use the property for a certain amount of time (or put more simply, you rent the land).

Economy and Job Growth

According to overall state rankings by US News, the state of Hawaii ranks #4 in employment and #1 in healthcare. Unfortunately, Honolulu is one of the slowest-growing large cities in America. Tourism is a huge industry here, along with military, manufacturing, and R&D. But the job market has flattened due to factors like high housing prices.

If you’re coming from NYC and have a job secured, you’ll be able to take advantage of the relatively lower taxes and cost of living. But if you don’t have work lined up, keep in mind that you’ll need to jump on that before moving here (or at least have plenty of savings just in case you can’t find a job right away). Another thing to keep in mind is that employers will probably not consider hiring until you’ve shown intent to stay on the island, which you can do by establishing a permanent address. 

Weather and Climate

Yeah, the weather! If you enjoy year-round sunshine and good vibes, Honolulu will not disappoint. And if you never want to shovel snow or scrape ice off your windshield again, well, you’ve found your new home. Honolulu has the least seasonal change of any city in the United States, with only a few degrees of difference during summer and winter months. And zero snow!

When it comes to rain, both New York City and Honolulu have about the same amount of annual precipitation (47 inches vs. 49 inches, respectively). You can also expect nearly 50 more days of sunshine in the Hawaiian city than the Big Apple, giving you plenty of days to explore outside and relax by the ocean. The summer high is virtually the same for both cities (about 85°F), but it’s a different story when it comes to winter – 65°F low in Honolulu compared to a freezing 26°F in NYC! 

Geography

Situated on the island of O’ahu, Honolulu is both the largest city and capital of Hawaii. It’s northwest of Moloka’i and southeast of Kauai. The town sits on the southern shores of the island, between the Koolau Mountain range and a narrow plain. It also ramps up an extinct volcano called the Punchbowl. 

As with all the islands that make up Hawaii, the area was the result of volcanic activity. Though several islands (aka boroughs) comprise NYC, there’s quite a contrast in land formation, topography, and seasonal changes. Hawaii’s trade winds help to keep the weather on the islands pretty comfortable year-round.

Housing and Cost of Living

On average, the cost of living in Honolulu is cheaper than in NYC. Yes, both cities aren’t exactly affordable – Honolulu has a cost of living index of 176.5, and New York City has an index of 187.2, both much higher than the US average of 100 – but if you’re a New Yorker, you’ll love the savings! In some cases, Honolulu can be 20% cheaper than the City that Never Sleeps. Yes, paradise is relatively affordable!

Okay, so how about housing prices? This fact might also surprise you. The median list price in Honolulu is $625,000. And when you compare to the median list price in NYC of $760,000, it’s a no-brainer. Homeownership is within reach if you’re accustomed to the Big Apple’s real estate prices. As for rentals, the median rent price in Honolulu is $2,200 per month and $2,900 per month in New York City.

Things to Do

Coming from the City that Never Sleeps, you’re used to having access to everything 24/7. But Honolulu is a whole new world of possibilities. One moment you can be strolling on Punaluu Black Sand Beach, and the next, you can be exploring Diamond Head, a dormant volcanic cone. Other popular destinations include Pearl Harbor National Memorial and Hanauma Bay State Park.

And, if you don’t know already, Honolulu is a city. There are plenty of urban activities – bars, nightclubs, music venues, and much more – to dance the night away. Some popular venues include Jazz Minds (jazz venue), Salsamor (night club), and Bar Leather Apron (swanky bar). Plus, there are endless chances to snorkel, swim, sunbathe, surf, boat, fish, and a ton of other outdoor activities in paradise!

Culture, Diversity, and Demographics

As part of the Hawaiian Islands, the City of Honolulu exhibits what’s called the Aloha Spirit. This energy and presence can be felt everywhere and in everything here. Its essence lies in the idea of melding heart and mind while attaining spiritual enlightenment and offering good vibes to others. Aloha!

Honolulu is also a melting pot of diversity and culture. From Native Hawaiians to Japanese and Filipino to Caucasian, Hawaii consistently ranks in the Top 3 most diverse states in the US, and Honolulu is a big part of that equation. As for specific race & ethnicity demographics, Honolulu is 42.9% Asian, 27.6% mixed & other, 18.9% White, 8.2% Hispanic & Latino, and 2.4% Black. New York City, by comparison, is 47.5% White, 22.4% Hispanic & Latino, 17.1% Black, 10.6% Asian, and 2.4% mixed & other.

Food

New York is known as a place where you can pretty much satiate any culinary desire. But when it comes to unique and incredibly fresh food, Honolulu is in another league. And if you’re into seafood and Asian inspired cuisine, you can’t beat it! From loco moco and spam musubi to poke to malasada and shaved ice, there’s a tasty (and often super cheap) option. 

Paina Café is known for its famous poke (raw yellowfin tuna in spicy sauce). Love donuts but want some super unique? Try the poi donut at Kamehameha Bakery. Shaved ice is a perennial fav, and you’ll find some of the best at Waiola Shave Ice. Those looking for a great bowl of ramen can’t miss out on Goma Tei. And if you’re moving to Honolulu, you have to try the loco moco (the quintessential Hawaiian dish) from L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

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Best Neighborhoods in Honolulu

Here are some of the top communities in Honolulu to call home.

Waialae – Kahala

Many regard this upscale neighborhood as the best one in Honolulu. Situated about six miles south of downtown Honolulu, it offers residents access to uncongested beaches and Diamond Head Summit Trail. Click here to discover more about the top neighborhood in Honolulu.

Manoa

In search of a more rural feel? Manoa is a fantastic choice! Located about 5 miles east of the downtown area, this gorgeous neighborhood is surrounded by a lush valley. And if you’re into hiking and waterfalls, this is the place to be. Delve into greater detail here.

Hawaii Kai

Found approximately 12 miles east of downtown, this neighborhood was built by billionaire Henry J. Kaiser in the 60s. It’s well-planned with an assortment of attractive modern homes. From Hanauma Crater to snorkeling, there’s a nice mix of water and land activities. Learn more here

Kaimuki

Meaning ‘the ti root oven’ for its candy history, Kaimuki is a more colorful, eccentric neighborhood. It has a suburban feel, offering several parks, playgrounds, and Kahala Mall (with an assortment of stores and farmers markets). Get more info on Kaimuki here.

Waikiki

Often confused with the beach flocked by adoring tourists, Waikiki is actually one of the best residential neighborhoods on the island of O’ahu. Of course, it does offer easy access to Waikiki Beach, along with a host of ocean activities. Take a look at what else Waikiki has to offer here.

Kaka’ako

Dynamic and hip, Kaka’ako can be found right between Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. The neighborhood is a nice mix of urban & energetic, and it offers the prime location to everything the city has to offer. Get to know the area of Kaka’ako here.

McCully-Moiliili

Highly affordable (yet often overlooked), McCully-Moiliili has a more youthful feel due to its proximity to the University of Hawaii. It also has some very unique shops and restaurants that are coveted by the locals. Learn more about McCully-Moiliili here.

Lililha – Kapalama 

In search of a family-friendly neighborhood? Lililha – Kapalama should definitely be on your list! Quiet, walkable, and filled with great amenities, this is the spot to raise kids. It also offers access to some highly rated schools. Take a look in greater detail of this family-centric neighborhood here.


Cost of Moving from NYC to Honolulu

On average, it costs about $8,000-$10,000 to move from New York City to Honolulu. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 4,900  miles across the country and an ocean. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination zip codes, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best NYC to Honolulu movers now!

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Devin Barroga

Ever been bitten by the wanderlust bug? It's a powerful force, one which has captivated Devin for his entire life.... Read More